Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says midfielder Kevin de Bruyne finished last season “exhausted”.
De Bruyne, 27, has played just five times for City this season after suffering two significant knee injuries.
The Belgian has started only twice and is yet to complete a full 90 minutes for the Premier League champions.
He is back in training and could make his latest comeback in Saturday’s early kick-off against Everton (12:30 GMT).
However, after a gruelling 12 months when De Bruyne made 52 appearances in all competitions for City and then played a central role in Belgium’s third-place finish at the World Cup, Guardiola feels the enforced break might be beneficial.
The Spanish manager said:
“Kevin finished last season exhausted.
“It was so tough for him and when he came back I had the feeling he was a little bit tired.
“Sometimes people recover quite well, sometimes mentally it takes time. We didn’t want him to be injured but maybe it helped us because now he’s fresh in his mind.”